What is going on here?

Reply

  #1  
Old 03-06-12, 12:05 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 61
What is going on here?

Hello,

I've lived in my house almost 25 years. It was built in the mid 60s. It does have aluminum wiring. I've not had any wiring problems. Very little has been changed of recent. All things have been plugged in at their locations and nothing new has been added. These items appear to be on the same circuit/breaker switch. The refrigerator on 1 outlet, TV on 1 outlet, radio, lamp and microwave on a dual plug outlet, computer, monitor, printer on a dual plug wall outlet. Again, it's been like this a long time with no problems.

Here may be the main question. I have a double wall outlet at my computer station. I have two surge protector strips in use. Each to the different connections of the double wall outlet. I've never had any problems with this - as stated in the first paragraph. Here may be the main question - two surge protectors on the same circuit, is that a problem?

The reason for this inquiry. I noticed the lamp by the computers start to flicker. I thought lamp was going bad. Then I heard some noise in the kitchen. I kept trying to locate the problem. I thought it was scratching from mice in a space above my drop-down cabinets. I was moving things around and looking in the cabinets when I heard the noise again and the frig quit. I got off the chair and looked behind the frig - I'm thinking, 'Great, the compressor died on a late Saturday night and I need a new frig!' Then the lamp, that I had not noticed as being off, suddenly came back on. Now I'm really confused because I'm thinking if a breaker had tripped, causing the frig and lamp to go off, there was no way the lamp would come back on! For some reason I put my hand on the plug for the frig. It was hot. NOTE - I have NOT smelled anything up to this point. I went outside to check the breaker to see if it had gotten half tripped or something. It appeared okay. With the new meters the power company can remotely check and they said they saw no surge or trip or anything. I went back in and decided to pull the wall plug behind the frig. What a shock! The scratching I'd heard was arcing inside the plug. The plug had partially melted. The plastic covering one wire was gone or blackened back about 4 inches. I can only imagine what would have happened if this had happened while I was gone from home!

Why didn't the breaker trip? Why didn't I smell something? Did the two surge protectors play in to this problem? Is this the common problem with aluminum wiring?

Thank you for your assistance and thoughts.

bamakodaker
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 03-06-12, 12:59 PM
Member
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 1,147
Are the receptacles 50 years old? If so, I would replace all, with the correct AL/CU type for your wiring. Don't expect breakers to trip with this issue you now have.
 
  #3  
Old 03-06-12, 01:06 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 32,658
Is this the common problem with aluminum wiring?
Yes. In fact it can happen at a receptacle with nothing plugged in because receptacles are usually daisy chained. At the very least I would occasionally check every receptacle with my hand to see if it is warm, even the ones with nothing plugged in. The older the receptacle the greater the chance of corrosion and loosening of the connection due to to thermal expansion and contraction over the years. Both corrosion and loose connections lead to heat which cause a worsening of the connection and even greater heat. Add to that the original receptacles used were often not designed for aluminum.

Why didn't the breaker trip?
Because the current that caused the heat was less then needed to trip the breaker. Think of it this way an electric toaster can set paper on fire but doesn't trip your breaker.

Are your receptacles grounded? if not the surge protectors are useless.
 
  #4  
Old 03-06-12, 02:02 PM
lawrosa's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 17,607
I would ask what panel do you have?

Often the 60's homes with aluminum wiring had the stab loks, no?

Not an electrician but just my experience from working in homes.

Federal pacific and I believe there were others.

If you have this panel there is a lot of info out there out there.

Here is some info.

http://www.ismypanelsafe.com/files/FPECircuitBreakerHazards070525.pdf

Mike NJ
 
  #5  
Old 03-06-12, 04:05 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 9,213
The scratching I'd heard was arcing inside the plug. The plug had partially melted. The plastic covering one wire was gone or blackened back about 4 inches.
Sounds like classic aluminum wiring problems/hazards. It's time to have all your wiring system analyzed and repaired by an electrician qualified to work on aluminum wiring. It also wouldn't hurt to think about having some non-destructive testing done like perhaps infrared and ultrasonic testing.

I would ask what panel do you have?
From what I have seen, Zinsco/Sylvania panels are far more hazardous than FPE panels.
 
  #6  
Old 03-06-12, 08:34 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 61
more to check

Hello and thank you for your advice!

telecom guy
I was in grade school when this house was built so I know the house is NOT old!
At least till I saw those words - 'are the receptacles 50 years old?'
I don't know how to tell if I have 'old' receptacles or not. I guess I can save up some money to replace switches and receptacles though!

ray
I did notice the melted plug was a properly designated plug for alum. wire.
Yes, I did see a third wire. Wait - What is a sign that it's actually grounded from the outside connection boxes?

lawrosa
I appreciate the info. However, it just brought up more questions! Ex - do I have bad breakers or worse in my over 50 years old house?

CasualJoe
I have the usual problem - I don't want to live with these problems, I don't have the money to just bring an electrician in and turn him loose! I've never heard of, and am afraid to ask the cost of, infrared and ultrasonic testing. What would that be for anyway?

I'm a photographer. I have very good images of the receptacle and wiring before I put in a new receptacle. Would these images give enough evidence to an insurance company to pay for rewiring? I have actually heard of ONE person where insurance paid to rewire their house.

I appreciate you time and words!

bamakodaker
 
  #7  
Old 03-07-12, 05:51 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 9,213
CasualJoe
I have the usual problem - I don't want to live with these problems, I don't have the money to just bring an electrician in and turn him loose! I've never heard of, and am afraid to ask the cost of, infrared and ultrasonic testing. What would that be for anyway?
Infrared looks for hot connections and/or hotspots at switches/receptacles, appliance connections, disconnects, in the main panel and circuit breakers. Ultrasonic testing is no more than super hearing and looks for arcing behind your electrical devices, circuit breakers and light fixtures. Cost? You'd have to ask a contractor who specializes in this type of residential testing; there aren't many around, but they are out there. I wouldn't want to live with those problems either, but I have to ask, what is the safety of your family worth? How do you put a price on someones life?
 
  #8  
Old 03-07-12, 06:38 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,359
One of the issues aluminum wiring had was that the connections would cold-flow from the heat/cooling cycles and the connections would become loose. Loose connections lead to heat, heat leads to fires. Any heavy loads on the circuit exacerbate these issues.

For now you can turn off the power and check to make sure the connections are tight. Warning, the aluminum conductors are fragile and will break from metal fatigue from bending,
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
'